Special Report – Master plan: The major first policy test

Nine months after taking office, Ho Iat Seng rolled out a major asset: the draft of the city’s first comprehensive urban master plan. The blueprint generated mixed views and is seen as a major test for the future development of Macau. 

MB December 2020 Special Report | Ho Iat Seng – Year 1

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has hindered the government’s ability to push forward with its policy agenda across the board. A major exception was the presentation in September of the long-awaited urban master plan proposal, with the aim of making Macau  “a happy, smart, sustainable and resilient city.” 

The blueprint, which ends up working as a strategic plan lasting at least 20 years, is not limited to translating the options announced by the previous Executive. 

In some ways, this new plan is bold: for example, it proposes the creation of a new landfill that will unite Land Reclamation Zone A and Northeast of Macau. The new 41-hectare zone is set to house more green areas and recreational facilities, taking into account the population density of the northern part of the Peninsula. 

Another example is that the government will give up on the creation of one of the five new land reclamations approved by Beijing (the so-called Zone D) and abandon the idea that the LTR will run through the city centre – a promise that had been repeated several times by the previous Chief Executive. “This is not in the urban master plan, but I also think it is very difficult to take the metro inside Macau’s city centre. I think it is one of those things that is clearly obvious why. I can tell you that it is very difficult to do. In the short term, we will not do it. I think everyone has already understood the situation”, said Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário. 

The government’s draft has drawn praise and criticism.  

Several community leaders hailed the move as a crucial step in the right direction. 

Those who cast a more sceptical eye on the blueprint point to shortcomings in the preservation of historic areas, such as former Cultural Affairs Bureau director Ung Vai Meng, or the pros and cons of running the East Line of the LRT above or below ground level, as pointed out by veteran engineer, Lee Hay Ip, honorary president of the Geotechnical Engineering Association. 

Former New Macau Association lawmaker Paul Chan Wai Chi pointed out that the devil lies in the details and that when it comes to implementing the project, members of the Macau government will have the final say. 

Others speak of a lack of coordination (lawmaker Agnes Lam) or that the division of the territory proposed by the government does not take into account Macau’s identity (architect Dominic Choi). 

The urban master plan, which was in public consultation until the beginning of last month, expands the areas designated for commercial purposes to 4 per cent of the city’s total area, up from the current 1 per cent.  

The plan also calls for public infrastructure areas to occupy 23 per cent of the Macau area; residential areas will occupy 22 per cent; ecological conservation zones will take up 18 per cent; tourism and entertainment areas 13 per cent; areas of equipment for collective use will occupy 10 per cent, and green areas or open public spaces will occupy 8 per cent. 

The urban master plan took five years to be designed, and must be reviewed every five years. In addition to the various administrative steps required to implement the plan, which must be completed by the end of September 2021, the master plan will be followed by 18 detailed plans at the district level.   

Ieong Meng U 

Waiting for the national  “14th five year plan” 

“The plan is not fully printed out currently, I think it will become clear next year when the national ‘14th five year plan’ comes out” 

Sonny Lo 

“Old style of governance” 

“Key points of the Master plan should be hammered out more efficiently, and it seems the Master plan has not been well publicized as the great future vision of Macau. The entire explanatory, consultation processes reflect old style of governance in the midst of rapidly changing demands for e-governance and better engagement with the public in terms of public policy making and implementation” 

José Álvares 

“The idea that we don’t have talented people in Macau is ludicrous” 

“The necessity is obvious and it’s only later one comes to regret not having made a proper plan. Take the LRT for the Macau side or, in this case, the lack thereof and the difficulty to now build it. Another example, the degrading (for the perception of justice) location of some courts that are still housed in a commercial building. Planning ahead could also allow to build low-cost temporary facilities on plots which development is not planned for the short to medium term, thus embellishing the city and getting rid of shoddy construction and waste piling. One point that I deem is essential is eschewing housing ‘cement blocks’, even when it comes to public housing. The Grand Lisboa warrants mixed reviews, but at least people talk about it and is undeniably a symbol of Macau. The idea that we don’t have talented people in Macau is ludicrous, just take the array of architects herein, we just need to give an incentive (which will likely entail spending slightly more).” 

Read more | Special Report – Break with predecessor